Since forty years it had been his best friend. Since forty years, every day, through every different mood it listened calmly to him- never questioning, never judging, for it knew that each time he would get a little more dependent on it. Each time they spoke it took away a little from him, without him even realizing it. Each time it killed him a little, and yet he continued. For he could not imagine his life without it. Yes, he couldn’t imagine a life without his cigarettes, which now seemed like a natural extension of his fingers.
When I met him he spoke to me, with a cigarette in his hands, of his dreams. Beautiful dreams. Dreams of creating an educational institute in Rajasthan for the poor. He spoke with clarity, he spoke keeping reality in mind. I coughed a little and then smiled in encouragement. Smoke and smile. Hazard to health and dreams of progress. Cigarette and visions. The paradoxes got to me and I couldn’t help but ask him, ‘Uncle you have such a beautiful vision for the future of kids you don’t even know, and yet with each cigarette you kill yourself a little bit hour after hour – hazarding your own future. Isn’t it a pity?’
Mr Pansari, my best friend’s father looked at me with widened eyes. He processed the thought. And within few seconds he replied, ‘Give me a twenty one day challenge and I promise you I will not touch a cigarette. On the twenty second day I will call you and tell you that if I could do this for these few days, I can do it for a lifetime.’ One week passed. And then another. I had not heard from uncle at all- and in all honesty, I did have a doubt whether he would be able to do it- a forty year old habit- can it be dropped in twenty one days?
On twenty second day the phone rang. With triumph in his voice uncle informed me, ‘I decided it and I did it. My decision became bigger than me and I never even had the urge to touch a cigarette. All that mattered was my decision, my promise to you. It’s now impossible for me to ever smoke again.’ Undoubtedly I was thrilled- thrilled for him, thrilled for his family but I think I was most thrilled for myself as I had the sudden realization that this was the victory of the human spirit, the human determination over a particular challenge. If one can decide it, one can do it. Suddenly I looked around myself to see more examples of single decisions changing lives. I was not disappointed.
He was only sixteen years old when he developed an eye problem. He was told, progressively he would now lose his eyesight for a few years until he becomes completely blind. At an age where youngsters seek and find themselves, at an age where one starts developing vision for a beautiful tomorrow, at an age where what others think, how peers relate with you matters so much, he found himself immersed in darkness. His mother wept, his father wept, his younger brother too wept. But Ankit, my young cousin, made a decision.
One of those evening when he was listening to a few of his favorite songs a thought came upon him, ‘I am only losing my sight- everything else in my body is functioning perfectly and I should be thankful for that.’ Instantaneously the thought became a decision, ‘Before I knew I would become blind I had several dreams. Loss of vision will not stop me. I will achieve all that I want to achieve in life and blindness will not subtract anything from my life. In fact, it will give me an impetus to strive harder. I will remain self reliant.’ And that was it. The rest, as they say, is history.
The handsome twenty year old today reads more books than most people who can see, via a special program; he won the student of the year award in his college; he has written a book on his life and will soon celebrate six months into his first amazing job in India’s most reputed MNC. He told me, ‘I took the decision and the decision governed my life. At times when I felt weakened, I would just remember my decision and with a calm smile walk on. I started every day of my life running my decision through my mind. And today my decision is me, I am my decision.’ He adds, with a naughty smile, ‘Am sure will even find the girl of my dreams someday- after all, love is blind.’ I laugh with him but have tears in my eyes.
Her husband told her he loved her, and the he told her he loved her not. Once again he told her he did, and then he did not. Sometimes he would come home and be the wonderful caring husband that any woman can dream of; at other times he was a detached stranger- incapable of all thoughts and feelings. She questioned herself, tried providing answers to herself and kept trying to make things work. She was a housewife- she had grown up believing that a marriage is a one time phenomena and no matter what you have to make it work. Although educated, she had never stepped out to work, to find herself in a role other than a daughter, sister and a wife. That evening he came home drunk. She offered him a glass of water which he threw aside abusing her. She sat in the balcony crying, watching the sun set. And suddenly, out of nowhere a thought came, ‘Do I not deserve a better life?’ In a moment, the decision was made.
She decided, ‘I deserve a beautiful life. I deserve to live without wondering what will happen tomorrow, I deserve a life of love. If not my husbands love, at least my love for myself.’ She quietly packed her bags and left for her parents’ home. Of course there was resistance. Questions. Accusations. And yet, since the decision was made, there was no going back.
In six months she was able to get a job that brought little salary, but a lot of self respect. She managed to get out of the marriage, unscathed. And is on her journey to discovering a new Shalini. There is so much strength in making a decision and standing by it. I didn’t know what I would do, where I would be when I left my husband- all I knew is that I deserved something better and I would give it to myself. Today, that single decision has turned my life downside up and things are looking better each day.’
For the first time I realized that I need not give examples of the Mahatma or Mother Teresa, my own life is surrounded by people who have had the courage to take a decision and make things happen. A thought, when it becomes a decision has the power to make things move. A decision when remembered every day, becomes a force. A force, when it becomes bigger than the person himself can overcome all the hurdles and become reality. If indecision is like the car which doesn’t know whether to go right or left, and goes nowhere in the bargain; decision is that chartered plane which zooms past the runway and gains flight. Certain indecisions arise of lack of information- in which case one can seek a higher intelligence to make up their mind- but most indecisions arise from a fear of the future- a question upon tomorrow. That robust health, that amazing job, that dream relationship, that wonderful life… awaits. Can you make the decision and make it yours?